So…the snow came on Wednesday morning…and then turned to rain on Wednesday afternoon. The night howled and whistled with wind as the rain battered against the windows…and the temperature rose. By the time the rain stopped around before midnight, it was 52 degrees outside. Nice to stand on the deck for a few minutes without a jacket, though it was still damp enough to be a momentary thing.
Morning found us with temperatures down closer to the seasonal norms in the 30s. I was up and out extra-early, since my recent move and re-registering to vote had stirred the pot of citizens and brought me, as it always seems to, to the top of the pot to be tapped for Jury Duty. Fortunately, it was a beautiful morning and the trip up-Cape was uneventful. As always, I brought along a stack of Batman comics to read while I waited, in hopes that officials would take note of my keen interest in vigilante justice and send me home. No such luck, but at least its an entertaining way to pass the time.
As it turns out, I was excused relatively early in the day. I did a bit of shopping before heading home, making a stop at Trader Joe’s and even visiting – ugh – the Mall briefly.
But then I was back at the Nest and with a sunny day and a temperature of 35, it seemed a crime to stay indoors and so off I went with MP3 player and camera on a two hour nature walk.
First, I took advantage of the season’s light traffic and made my way carefully across Route 6, to get a closer look at Cedar Pond, which you can see driving by. It’s the pond which drains into Rock Creek, which you may recall runs through the marsh behind Rock Harbor. It doesn’t have much in the way of public shoreline, since there are private homes along one shore and the highway on another, but I did see a swan.
I enjoyed the closer look at Cedar Pond, but I also found it a bit of a dead-end. What a really wanted to do was see if I could find that great blue heron I’ve been spotting coming out of the marsh by the rotary…and so after another over-cautious highway crossing, I was walking down the street toward the edge of the marsh, enjoying the sunshine and some tunes in my ears.
I’m still figuring out the dang MP3 player. While I’m a bit of a technophile normally, this fiendish device often leaves me feeling like I’m a time traveler from the Revolutionary War era who “knows not of this com-pewt-or of which you speak.” I tried to set it randomly shuffle through everything I’ve loaded onto it so far, since that can often be fun…but the thing perhaps wisely decided to stick for a while on the folder containing recordings by my pal Chris Shaw, Adirondack folk singer and amateur chef extraordinaire.
If you don’t know Chris’ music, you should visit his website and educate yourself; it’s just great…and as it turns out, the perfect soundtrack for walks in the wilderness, Adirondack or not.
The marsh was alive in a way you never quite expect it will be in January. The ducks were feeding as the tide began to turn, draining out of the marsh.
From the nearby woods you could hear (I did take the earbuds out for a while here and there along the trip…) the songs of industrious little birds making hay while the sun shone…or whatever it is little birds do this time of year when the sun shines. ; )
And there, without hardly trying, I found my quarry, that beautiful blue heron I’ve seen flying overhead any number of times since the new year began. I don’t think I ever realized before this year that they are not migratory. I’m not sure I’d ever read anything to think that they were, just assumed (we all know what that gets us…) that they wouldn’t hang around for all this winter weather.
At first, one could get a little worried, thinking of them and all the howling coyotes one hears out in the marshes from time to time, but I’m happy to tell you that these guys are VERY tuned in to their surroundings and even though I started out taking photos from a fair distance, it still spotted me and took to the air.
However, it didn’t seem to realize how keen I was to get some good photos of it, and also, that the place it flew to was right along the path where I was going to be walking.
Fortunately, I had just a little cover from which to snap this pretty clear photo, although it quickly took to the sky again the moment I’d captured this image, heading off to a part of the marsh I couldn’t access.
This was fine by me – I have no interest in deviling the poor bird much, only in getting a few sweet photos in homage to a bird that utterly fascinates me.
Did you know they have a wingspan of nearly seven feet? Amazing. Once it had vanished into the the safety of the grays and browns of the winter marsh, I turned my attention to the path I’d been looking for, just steps away from where I’d found this majestic creature moments earlier and into the wooded conservation area I went.
This is not new territory for me. On rides along the bike trail, I’d discovered these paths years ago, but only ever visited occasionally, since it was a bit of a journey from where I was living then to this part of the Cape. Of course now, this natural gem is more or less in my backyard, so I enjoyed exploring from another direction, with an idea toward making this a regular part of my routine.
Its so peaceful in the woods, no matter what time of year. Even in high summer, I’d found this to be a peaceful area where one was unlikely to see more than a few scattered people.
This time of year, you could probably go days without seeing someone…which is just one good reason to be extra careful when you see icy patches along the shadier parts of the path.
But look what else you can find in the shady places?! Forget a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end – I’ll take the brilliant green of mosses in winter nearly anyday! How that color makes my heart sing…
Eventually, the conservation area path comes out along the edge of the bike trail, which runs along the eastern edge of Boat Creek Marsh (often seen here at the blog from the Bridge Road vantage point). There’s no lack of wildlife here. An assortment of crows wheeled about overhead, cawing and shrieking. I thought perhaps I would see an eagle or a hawk, as the crows are known to mob those larger birds when they threaten their nests. However, in this case, it seemed to be another blue heron they were yelling at.
The bike trail offered more of the exercise component of the day and I walked well into Eastham, capturing this image of a frozen cranberry bog before turning around to head south for home.
On the way back, I spotted yet another heron in another part of the marsh.
This one had remained so still during my travels north a few minutes earlier that I hadn’t been sure it actually was another heron, thinking perhaps it was just a gray stump the corner of the salt marsh.
On the power lines that run along the bike trail (Remember, it used to be the railroad line through here, so while the bike trail runs adjacent to some of the least spoiled land in the area, it is also in someways pretty utilitarian. You can see it doesn’t stop the birds.), I spotted this belted kingfisher watching the waters below for some errant fish or other thing they find yummy.
I went to college with a guy who had hair like this bird, but honestly, he was really more of a titmouse. ; )
It was great to get outside and enjoy a nice long walk to celebrate the sunny day. February’s just about here, and despite my annual hopes for the Groundhog’s prognostications, I have little hope that in the glare of the media spotlight the poor little rodent won’t see his shadow. Six more weeks of winter – at least -seems a sure guarantee this year. In fact, there’s snow in the forecast for the next day or two. Having memories of a golden afternoon like this one will help see me through.
I hope you’re finding some little pleasures in your days, too.
(Here’s a shot of The Nest through the trees: you can sort of make out the door onto my deck.)